How To Execute The Image-Perception-Reality Concept To Increase Sales In Your Retail Store Part 1
I wanted to share the IMAGE-PERCEPTION-REALITY concept that is discussed in my new book: The Ultimate Retail Manual: Strategies for Retailers to Thrive & Succeed in the Digital World. This concept was executed throughout my thirty-year tenure within the retail sector with fantastic results that were achieved through empirical results.
“In addition, the retail manual has an international presence that is resonating with readers in Germany, Mexico, UK, France, Italy, Ireland, Canada, and Australia.”
I am feeling immense gratitude today for my first book sales in France and Italy. What an honor to share The Ultimate Retail Manual with other countries around the world. In addition, the retail manual has an international presence that is resonating with readers in Germany, Mexico, UK, France, Italy, Ireland, Canada, and Australia.
I have always felt that it is our responsibility to “help others” through our knowledge, perspective, and experiences. It brings me great joy to assist retail leaders and business leaders with the knowledge that I gleaned from my thirty-year tenure in the retail sector.
The image-perception-reality concept is a phrase I created to teach and train my employees/leaders the paramount importance of how a customer mentally perceives your ENTIRE STORE. The process is unassuming at first glance. It is something we all do anytime we enter any environment; customer views an image (an endcap, a section etc.) which creates a perception in their mind (positive or negative); and, from this information, accurate or not, becomes the customer’s reality.
The image-perception-reality concept is heavily influenced by the first impression cognitive assessment we all make when we encounter anything for the first time. It is also one of the main principles of Feng-Shui which is how energy interacts with and moves through space i.e. your physical store. The concept took years to understand, which consisted of three basic principles: performing merchandising experiments, adjustments of cleanliness standards, and manipulation of customer traffic flow patterns (for minimal periods) in multiple stores throughout the country. After rigorously testing these principles, I began to fully comprehend the elementary, yet extremely impactful effect, of this concept.
“In our digital society, many people do not question their feelings regarding energy within a space and how it makes them feel.”
We have ALL experienced walking into a space e.g., friend’s home, store, or a spot in nature and “immediately” felt an uneasiness or comfortable feeling associated with the space. In our digital society, many people do not question their feelings regarding energy within a space and how it makes them feel. Subsequently, when we enter a space, we instinctively sense how the environment affects our mood. This intuitive knowing is usually triggered unconsciously without our conscious mind processing the energy.
However, individuals are affected (positively or negatively) by these feelings whenever they encounter a pleasant space or a chaotic atmosphere. I noticed that the departments that were clean, organized, had solid traffic flow, and were maintained meticulously was the same departments that were CONSISTENTLY exceeding budget, received the fewest customer complaints, and had the highest morale throughout the store. A coincidence maybe, or perhaps, there was a common thread that was connecting these departments together like some invisible string. The further I delved into this enigma, I started correlating the similarities (which were piling up) among the departments. At this time, I coined the phrase “image-perception-reality.”
“I started “resonating” with the concepts. At that moment, I had an AHA MOMENT. A light bulb went off as I realized that I had been advocating this message (of how energy flows through an environment either positively or negatively) for a considerable time.”
I started voraciously reading books about Feng-Shui and how to harness this ubiquitous energy for consistently favorable results. In learning the Feng-Shui principles, I started “resonating” with the concepts. At that moment, I had an AHA MOMENT. A light bulb went off as I realized that I had been advocating this message (of how energy flows through an environment either positively or negatively) for a considerable time.
However, I was always met with ridicule, indignation, or sarcasm from my superiors. I instinctively understood that the energy permeating any space could be adjusted to facilitate a more pleasant shopping experience for the customer. As an entry-level manager, I was not afforded the opportunity to implement any of my ideas surrounding energy enhancement. Henceforth, I waited until I became a store manager/district executive to execute my well thought out adjustments. During this period, I amassed an enormous amount of tangible and effective data from my experiments that was proven and consistent.
MERCHANDISING EXPERIMENTS TO TEST MY THEORY
From this point, I wanted to test my hypothesis (after discussing with my district manager to obtain his approval) and started executing small changes throughout the store in certain sections to observe the customer behaviors. Meanwhile, my colleagues remarked apropos of the initiative, stating it was a stupid idea. The first of the three principles were the merchandising experiment in which I would take a section that was normally high volume and removed enough product to make the section look like Swiss cheese. However, there was never a moment when we ran out-of-stock completely, thus depriving our store of revenue.
In addition, I would DELIBERATELY trash the section and make it look like a hurricane went through (which was extremely difficult for me because I was so persnickety about the look of my store.) I would then anxiously wait for the sales data to be gathered, customer comments relayed, and employee perspectives communicated. I would perform these minor experiments throughout each week for a period of one month, at which point I would thoroughly review all of the data (taking into consideration the season we were in and the time of year it was, while equating the numbers to comparable figures.)
I would also instruct all associates/managers to communicate with me the customer comments/complaints they were receiving regarding the chosen sections. I would then tally the results every week and communicate this information with the entire store. I would utilize all the communication channels we were employing (morning/evening huddles, all store meetings, communication letters with the paychecks, department meetings, leadership meetings with the entire management team etc.
“I was disrupting the normal flow of positive “CHI” which had created a disharmonious energy the customers could sense and feel. This, in turn, was causing them to feel “uneasy” which would translate into fewer sales and increased complaints.”
The image-perception-reality experiment was metamorphosing into its own entity and my theories about this concept were starting to crystallize. Sales numbers were considerably lower in the sections I choose, the customer complaints had increased in number, and the employees/managers reported an increase in “agitated” customers in the departments that had experimental sections. The fact of the matter is that by interfering with the regular energy of a section, I was disrupting the normal flow of positive “CHI” which had created disharmonious energy the customers could sense and feel. This, in turn, was causing them to feel “uneasy” which would translate into fewer sales and increased complaints.
During my experiments, I had rediscovered (which I had already intuitively understood) that the feel of a space and how the energy moves in and through a space, will dictate either a positive or negative response from the people (employees and customers) who are interacting in that area.